There’s a brand new study which has focused on a new mystery: bats and fungus. Providence researchers are looking into how the white-nose syndrome disease has been affecting bats.
The National Science Foundation has awarded a team of researchers from Brown University in Providence, R.I., $500 thousand to study the disease and give answers as to combating it. The name “white-nose” was given to it, quite obviously, because of a white fungus appearing on the wings and noses of bats.
The syndrome was first spotted in 2006, in New York. In the meantime, it’s said to have killed between five and six million bats, across 28 states and in Canada. The main hypothesis as to how the disease appeared in America is that it was brought over from Europe, where bats are supposed have developed a resistance to it.
Richard Bennett, the leader of the research group, has said this to be the greatest wildlife decline at the hands of an infection in the last hundred years. Craig Willis, a leading expert on the disease in Canada, comes to confirm this and says that in the U.S. northern neighbor, bats have been dying in shocking numbers in Nova Scotia and Thunder Bay. Willis mentioned that the clean-up team was picking up the bats in garbage bags, filling them with the little critters’ carcasses.
The research has uncovered the fungus at the base of the infection. It’s called pseudogymnoascus destructans, Pd for short, and it enters the nose, mouth, and wings of the bats, after which it compromises their ability to maintain the temperature of their bodies at normal levels, and their ability to keep themselves hydrated.
Bennett’s lab and research usually deals with human infections which appear at the hands of fungi. For this study, needing further expertise, the team partnered with a team of researchers from the San Francisco University of California. The team from Providence had been sending fungus samples to one of the researchers in California for analysis. The results of the study were published in April.
In the meantime, the team has been looking for a way to treat the bats. Admitting that it would be impossible to give drugs directly to the animals, Bennett admits to the necessity of an “awkward and silly” measure – such as completely spraying the walls of a bat cave with an antifungal agent.
Things are looking pretty scary for the little flying rats we somehow find cuter. Yet, with people like Professor Bennett, there are hopes that this still growing infestation will be eventually solved.
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